Imagine you’re at a business after-hours event. At this event, hundreds of professionals from various industries are mingling, making connections, and passing out business cards. You know this is a golden opportunity to connect and build your network, but how do you filter through the fray of people to find strategic, mutually beneficial connections and leads?
Although LinkedIn is a virtual networking platform, the principles are no different than face-to-face networking. Here are a few tricks you can use to acquire valuable connections that benefit multiple realms of your business.
The 75% – 25% Rule: Generally, when connecting with people on LinkedIn, aim to populate 75% of your connections with your target market and 25% with industry connections. For example, if you are a financial professional that specializes primarily in retirement and 401(k)’s, aim to connect with individuals on the cusp of retirement or groups that fit your target market 75% of the time. The other 25% of connections should consist of fellow advisors and industry leaders.
Why take this approach?
“LinkedIn is the perfect platform to not only connect with potential leads and clients, but to also learn, generate ideas, and stay informed on industry trends. We work with several clients who build their networks, acquire leads and stay on
top of cutting-edge of industry trends through LinkedIn,” says Ben Hodges, Social Media Marketing Accounts Manager at Financial Social Media.
Find your connection style: There are many ways to approach connecting on LinkedIn. While we strongly suggest you connect with anyone and everyone, there are multiple approaches you can take. Social Media Sonar has 4 encompassing connection strategies:
- The Lion: Lions are completely open connectors. They seek to increase their connections through actively sending out and accepting connection invitations. While I’m sure there are a few who take pride in touting the specific number, the majority believe that large networks lead to more opportunity.
- The Turtle: Turtles are the opposite of lions. Turtles primarily connect with those they know well. They see value in having a tight network made up of individuals they completely trust. Their networks tend to be highly selective and can be counted on to pass on introductions, much like a private networking group.
- The Hound Dog: A Hound Dog is someone who uses LinkedIn to connect to those they know and those they would like to know. They also accept invitations from those that would be beneficial to be connected to.
- The Alley Cat: Alley cats only send invitations to people they know or people they have a specific reason for connecting to, but they accept invitations from just about anyone. They believe there is value in knowing your connections, but there are also unexpected opportunities that develop from establishing new connections— known and unknown.
There is value in utilizing all of these strategies and we suggest you use your best judgement. Regardless, you need to be connecting.
Upon signing up for LinkedIn, you automatically have a cap of 3,000 connections. Once you reach your limit, you can request more. How many you’re given is based on the acceptance rate of the first 3,000 connections. In other words, there is a world of opportunity to expose yourself and your brand on LinkedIn.
Connect to groups: Groups are gold mines in the LinkedIn world. Whether you’re seeking to find valuable connections, increase brand exposure, or simply be aware of industry trends—groups will help you achieve all of those objectives. When connecting with groups, apply the same 75% potential client and 25% industry connection rule. Also seek out local and personal interest groups—such as St. Louis Business Exchange or Golf and Business Networking.
Think: What groups are my potential clients connected to?
How else can you use groups?
- To post blogs, surveys, discussions, and articles—some groups have an upwards of 10,000 members. That’s a ton of potential exposure for you and your brand.
- To start and engage in conversations about pertinent industry topics
- To seek potential clients, leads, and/or business connections
- To observe and learn from industry leaders
Personalization: Have you ever talked to an automated voice recorder on the phone or received automated messages online? If you haven’t, it’s very frustrating. We are not automatons, we’re humans with an innate desire to feel important and have genuine human connection. LinkedIn prompts you to send messages to connections on numerous occasions—i.e. requesting connections, accepting connection requests, or sending recommendation requests. Instead of using the generic, automated message LinkedIn provides you, create personalized message templates.
What are other ways you can personalize and enrich your relationship with connections?
- When you accept connection requests, immediately follow up with a personalized message. Thank the individual for the request and begin a conversation with them.
- Remember, there is no sound sweeter than the sound of your own name—frequently address people by their first name. Also remind them of how you know them or met them.
- Whenever possible, help people. If you’re aware of a job opening, a lead, or opportunity that could benefit a connection—let them know.
- Don’t be an overt salesman or self-promoter. On LinkedIn, people don’t want a sales pitch, they want valuable relationships and connections.
LinkedIn is king when it comes to business networking. Whether you’re researching new marketing ideas, seeking prospective clients, or attempting to stay up-to-date on industry trends, LinkedIn is the first place you should go. Have any more questions or ideas regarding connections on LinkedIn? Leave a comment and let us know.